A customer wants to purchase auto insurance. First, they research pricing on your website. They call you when they’re ready to buy. If they need copies of their ID card, they log into your client portal and print one out. If they have a quick question about a policy’s effective date, they shoot you a message through online chat. If they have to file a claim, they start the process online, and you can call them every couple of days to update on status.
This is insurance in an omnichannel world—one that combines digital technologies with human interaction. While independent agents have mastered customer service in the physical world, many struggle to integrate these capabilities with digital technologies.
Being an omnichannel agency does not mean sacrificing one-on-one customer service for automation. It means bringing clients the best of both worlds—offering a variety of ways to engage with your agency so they can obtain insurance on their own terms. Routine, predictable tasks such as accessing insurance documents, providing initial quotes and collecting customer information can be accomplished with automated tools. Agents then have more time to answer the complex questions, providing coverage advice, risk assessments and unique requirements.
But on the path to omnichannel, where do you start?
1) Know the client touchpoints. Mapping client touchpoints requires understanding all the ways clients and prospects may interact with your agency, today and in the future. Understanding clients’ needs will guide your agency on which digital technologies to adopt.
Ask yourself these questions to get started:
- Do clients often call or email simple questions that we could address more quickly with an instant messaging capability?
- How much time and money do we spend on mailing documents to customers?
- Do we spend significant time providing initial quotes to customers or prospects, detracting from our ability to address more complex issues?
2) Set realistic targets and plan. Most agencies don’t have the time or resources necessary to adopt all digital technologies at the same time. You need to make a strategic decision regarding what to implement first. Two technologies that should be at the top of every list: an interactive website and an integrated customer relationship management (CRM) system.
At minimum, your website design should be intuitive and provide all the relevant information your clients need, including agency background, coverage areas, product information, phone numbers and simple forms for prospects to request more information. Providing access to a client portal where insureds can obtain policy information and ID cards or start the claims process, in addition to installing a comparative rater, can reduce the time your agency spends on administrative requests.
You should also look for ways to improve search engine optimization (SEO). The insurance market is saturated, and customers who perform an initial Google search for agencies will only browse for so long before they make their selection. Increasing your SEO through content creation, local listings, social media interaction, customer reviews and testimonials, plus linking to credible referral sources, can move your website to the top of the list—making it easier for prospective customers to find it.
Finally, a great CRM system that is connected to your agency operations can enable you to prioritize work based on real opportunities and managed relationships, communicate 24/7 with automated triggered messaging and measure efficiencies. All top-of-the-funnel prospecting activities should flow through your CRM system, including networking events, website traffic, online meeting participation, third-party aggregated lead partners, B2B referral partners, paid media and even data mining through existing customer lists.
As prospects enter the system, it should have a way to rank and assign consumers and their product appetite to producers that historically demonstrate the propensity to close that type of business at the highest rates. Systems trending toward even the most basic artificial intelligence and prescription help producers and customer service representatives automate repeatable tasks and follow-up communication.
3) Integrate the workflow. Next, analyze how these changes will impact workflow. Change that deviates from normal operations can be difficult, so communicate the changes to your staff and provide training. A strong communications program that outlines how the new tools not only improve customer service but also alleviate workloads will help persuade your team to move forward. Later, a robust training program will ensure staff is comfortable using the new tools and will enable them to inform their clients about the agency’s new offerings.
4) Measure the results and evolve the program. What’s the impact of these new technologies on your business? Measuring this will enable you to make necessary adjustments. Measure not only quantitative data like number of unique website visitors, increase in converting prospects and impact to direct written premium and policies in force, but also qualitative data—how customers are interacting with the website, or employee feedback on the training process.
Omnichannel agencies are more efficient. They save time and money by systematizing routine activities with the right mix of digital and human touchpoints. As an agency automates its predictable processes, it can and should leverage the resulting time savings to develop even stronger relationships with clients. Empowered with the right technology, agents will have leaner workloads and more time to service the unique and complex client needs that technology can’t solve.
Jason Walker is co-founder and managing partner of Smart Harbor, a company that provides digital technology solutions for trusted advisers, empowering them with insurance-specific tools to grow their businesses.